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Fresh Hell

The best dispatches from our grim new reality

Sphere is the Mind-Killer

There seems to be no end to the ways that the formerly harmless old-timey knickknacks of a vanished Americana can harm us, with balloons peering down with sinister intent from the skies they once cluttered with box kites and fizzled fireworks, and trains, those quaint and peaceable choo-choos of yesteryear, derailing in the heart of the country and clouding our airborne toxic event calendar. But in the wider world, even the shapes seem dead set against humanity, as a mysterious metal sphere has washed up on a beach in Hamamatsu, Japan. Nobody knows what it is, but nobody likes it. Guesses as to what nefarious origin produced the malevolent rotundity have ranged from Godzilla egg to space junk to a rusty old buoy (it’s probably just a buoy), or possibly the moon (oh wait, maybe it’s the moon). Normally this wouldn’t be news, but everyone’s just a little on edge right now—who’s to say China didn’t decide to scrap the whole spy balloon initiative and decide to stoop to circles? What goes around comes around.


No Rest Stop for the Wicked

A no-holds-barred exposé has riled the New Jersey community of Cheesequake and blown the lid off the Jon Bon Jovi Rest Stop’s foundation of lies, concluding that it is almost as if there’s something sketchy about rest stops. Crack journalism has discovered that the inspirational quotes from famous New Jerseyites that festoon the building are largely balderdash: Ed Harris never said that “acting is like a touchdown,” nor did Walt Whitman urge us to “be curious, not judgmental,” and you’ll be shocked to learn that Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates did not join hands and eerily orate in unison, “The act of actualizing one’s highest and best sense of self, with a moral excellence of character, and for the greater good,” which is not a sentence. Nor are those guys from New Jersey; this is all some real gabagool. Though the Jon Bon Jovi Rest Stop may be giving Cheesequake a bad name, they can at least console themselves with their bathroom’s wide selection of glory holes. It’s not like they have nothing to be proud of. 


Turnip Slip

In Britain, the island nation that is hardly a stranger to xenophobia and bland food, environmental secretary Therese Coffey has answered concerns about seasonal shortages of imported foods from Africa and Europe by suggesting that consumers support British farmers and take advantage of glorious staples of culinary wizardry like turnips. In reminding starving blokes and blokettes to “cherish the specialisms we have in this country,” Coffey essentially counseled critics to close their eyes and think of England, inadvertently casting a shadow over the green and pleasant land whose own chief exports continue to be played-out Monty Python punchlines, actors who portray devious villains, and Morrissey, who frankly nobody wants, nor him us.


Days of Future Pastor

A German youth pastor who celebrated the eighteenth birthday of his longtime girlfriend by marrying her after four years of dating a child is under fire from grossed-out Redditors, who are literally late to the party; as defenders of the cleric have pointed out, the post is old, the age of consent in Germany is fourteen, and it’s not like the church has anything to be embarrassed about when it comes to the seduction of the innocent by powerful role models posing as authority figures. What’s really at stake here is the increasingly convoluted use of the word grooming, which has long been understood to refer to a litany of coercive behaviors motivated by sexual abuse of minors but, in the hands of anti-LGBTQ activists on the right, has lately been applied to any law or school that allows for basic acknowledgment of the sexual or gender identities of young people. Hopefully, the Republican Party won’t learn about the slang term broom, a portmanteau of bride and groom applied to same-sex couples, or they’ll know for sure that the queer community are all a bunch of witches.


Monsterpiece Theater

The Santa Cruz Police Department has issued a warning to the public not to engage a man dressed as the Cookie Monster who has been harassing seaside visitors to the local wharf, spouting vulgarities and fringe conspiracy theories at passersby. It’s not illegal, it’s just not sanctioned by any letters of the alphabet. “No one wants to hear the Cookie Monster say he’s going to kill their family,” said a local business owner, a soundbite that will live on in cultural memory alongside the Sesame Street pinball song and the oddly melancholy “We All Live in a Capital I.” The “creepy Cookie Monster” turns out to be the latest guise of the “Evil Elmo” who terrorized San Francisco in the mid-2010s, a perpetrator making his way Muppetward toward infamy, and who happens to be named Adam Sandler. All reports have been careful to specify that it’s not that Adam Sandler, but let’s pretend it is. Somehow this all seems a fitting denouement for the Grown Ups 2 actor last seen busking outside 123 Sesame Street, singing songs about whoever happened by. He’s probably outside your apartment building right now. Do not engage.